Upward Bound students’ film featured nationally

Amy Cooknick

Why should I care?

Nationally, Upward Bound is losing funding, but students who have been part of the program often credit it with their success after high school. The video “UnBreakable Ties” was made by students in support of the program.

Ten high school students in the Kent State Upward Bound program have been nationally recognized for a film they produced this summer.

The film “UnBreakable Ties,” a commentary on the importance of Upward Bound to students, was posted on the Council for Opportunity in Education’s Facebook page Sept. 7, and has since garnered more than 100 views.

Every summer, local high school students live and attend classes at Kent State through the Upward Bound program. They spend five weeks in June and July living in dorms and learning college-level material in order to ready themselves for the real college experience.

Students in the Upward Bound electronic media elective learn about college life by writing and producing their own short film each summer.

“We talked about the state that Upward Bound is in nationally with the balancing of the budget,” said Danielle Wiggins, instructor for the electronic media elective. “Funding will be cut, so they need all types of things to help advocate for the program.”

Wiggins, who has taught the course since 2009, said she and her students wanted the video to truly represent the experience and relationships students gain from attending Upward Bound each summer. The film was made with the intention of uploading it to YouTube and allowing it to spread virally through social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

“I told the students that this could possibly go before politicians or local decision-makers,” Wiggins said. “My purpose of teaching the class is to really show these students that there’s power in media. They can use regular everyday equipment and really tell their stories to impact other people.”

The one-hour class met Monday through Thursday, Wiggins said. The main goal of the course is to learn about social media by producing a short film about the program itself.

During the first two to three weeks, students in grades 11 and 12 work to develop the concept for the film, write the script and take photographs to feature in the film. Wiggins said her students this summer got ideas about how to produce their film by watching and critiquing documentaries and videos on YouTube.

The remainder of the class was spent interviewing other Upward Bound students to feature in the video, blogging about the film and organizing the film for editing.

Patrick Gables, senior Barberton High School student, was one of the students interviewed for the video.

“I was not actually in the electronic media course, but I had a couple of classes with students in the course, and they asked me if I would like to speak for their video,” Gables said. “I just answered their questions to the best of my ability.”

Wiggins said students conducted interviews for the film during class time, but did much of the other work on their own time.

“I helped them because a lot of them didn’t have any type of media experience,” Wiggins said. “So I pull them into a framework so that they can be successful.”

At the end of the five weeks, Wiggins edited the students’ photos, video and audio into the finished film, which was featured at the Upward Bound closing ceremony for all students July 15.

“Always the goal has been to really show the students the power that media has,” Wiggins said. “They don’t need a lot of money to broadcast their stories to the world.”

Contact Amy Cooknick at [email protected].